Friday, August 17, 2007

Wordsworth on capital punishment

Those teaching law-and-literature courses this year may be interested in reading this recently published article:

Gregg Mayer, The Poet and Death: Literary Reflections on Capital Punishment through the Sonnets of William Wordsworth, 21 St. John's J. Legal Comment 727 (2007). It's available on LexisNexis and on Westlaw. The first paragraph is intriguing: "No poet has more vigorously, thoroughly and eloquently defended the state's right to execute than the great Romantic poet William Wordsworth. In 1841, fearing abolition of capital punishment when Parliament passed a bill eliminating the death penalty as punishment for 200 offenses, Wordsworth, then 71, composed a series of Sonnets Upon The Punishment of Death. These sonnets delve into topics as varied as the condemned's last walk toward the scaffold, to meditations on whether God would approve of capital punishment. Unlike many other writers from his time, including Dickens, Thackeray, and Tolstoy, Wordsworth opposed total abolition of the death penalty; his sonnets provide a rare, versed defense for this authority. More broadly, his sonnets offer a literary doorway to other writers' reflections on capital punishment, both from Wordsworth's contemporaries and more modern authors." (footnotes omitted)


August 17, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

new Supreme Court rules

Even after leaving for another law school, ace librarian Professor Diane Murley has followed up on an inquiry I made previously, with this helpful information:

The Supreme Court approved its new rules by an order dated July 17, 2007. They will be effective October 1. The order also rescinded the 2005 rules effective September 30. .

"At the Supreme Court home page,, you can find the 2005 rules, the 2007 rules, and “Revisions to Rules,” which compares the old and the new.


August 17, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

books on clerking

The ABA sent an announcement of two books that might be helpful for those strong students looking at clerkships. (The descriptions below are the ABA's.)

Federal Appellate Court Clerking: A Survival Guide, by Joseph L. Lemon, Jr.
"This book provides the ammunition that new and soon-to-be clerks need to perform his or her duties successfully from the first day in chambers. This book is also valuable to those considering applying for an appellate clerkship who want to learn the nuts-and-bolts of what the job actually entails."

Federal District Court Clerking: A Survival Guide, by Calvert G. Chipcase
"This book offers an insight into the day-to-day responsibilities of federal district court law clerks. The book will provide district court law clerks instruction to help them perform their jobs; help law students maximize their chances of getting hired as district court law clerks; and educate law students who are considering clerking but unsure about whether to clerk at the federal trial or appellate level."


August 16, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

a good lesson on consequences

So what happens when a lawyer tells a judge that she's "a few french fries short of a Happy Meal"?  Luckily for one Chicago attorney, the formal sanction was not as severe as the harm to his reputation and the cost, financial and otherwise, to him and his firm.


August 15, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

new electronic resource for federal legislative history

Our friends over at the Law Librarian Blog report news that "complete online access to the bound and daily Congressional Record, its three predecessor titles, and other important Congressional material" is now available through HeinOnline. Put this in your notes for later in the year when you teach legislative history.


August 15, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Southeast Legal Writing Conference

Professor Cynthia Bulan, at Nova Southeastern, sends this reminder:

Home_image If you plan to attend the Southeast Legal Writing Conference, please register by August 30, 2007.  Registration is free and is easy to do on the conference website


August 14, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 13, 2007

accounting for a more visual audience

Professor Richard K. Sherwin has written A Manifesto for Visual Legal Realism, to be published in 40 Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review (2007). He makes many astute points about the new challenges our increasingly visual culture poses for lawyers’ story-telling and persuasive efforts.

As he explains:
"The shift to visual representation and visual advocacy in contemporary legal practice has the potential to introduce an aspect of law that has long been under-represented in academic circles, namely: the aesthetic power to embody legal truth on the screen as a visual enchantment. A stable society agrees upon a shared repertoire of rhetorical moves, "a lexicon of normative action," that it recombines and supplements to meet the needs of changing times. In a visually literate society, these rhetorical moves build upon a visual code that over time is unconsciously assumed. What we see on the screen may appear real, but like the physical act of perception itself, it is, to a significant degree, artificially constructed and incomplete.

"It behooves legal advocates and cultural critics alike to understand how we get our visual knowledge from the screen, and what kind of knowledge this is. Only then can the gaps and distortions in such knowledge be consciously confronted and perhaps corrected by other, more accurate sources."


August 13, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, August 12, 2007

little lessons

From an e-mail I received today . . .  each could be used for a lesson in an LRW course. Well, maybe the first one should remain a temptation only.

ON PUBLISHING OR PERISHING     I am returning this otherwise good typing paper to you because someone has printed gibberish all over it and put your name at the top. -- English Professor, Ohio University

ON PROBLEM SOLVING     When the only tool you own is a hammer, every problem begins to resemble a nail. -- Abraham Maslow

ON MATERIALISM     He who dies with the most toys, is, nonetheless, still dead.


August 12, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, August 11, 2007

literature as legal authority

A recently published student article examines courts' use of literary references in judicial opinions. Those who use Wyoming Prof. Michael Smith's text, Advanced Legal Writing: Theories and Strategies in Persuasive Writing, and others interested in the persuasive/rhetorical/legal effect of literary references may wish to take a look. Here's the citation:

John M. DeStefano III, Student Author, On Literature as Legal Authority, 49 Ariz. L. Rev. 521 (2007).


August 11, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Friday, August 10, 2007

1L survival tips

The ABA has issued a pamphlet for incoming law students, entitled How to Survive the First Year of Law School, by William D. Henslee.  Admissions offices at ABA accredited law schools currently are receiving boxes of these pamphlets to hand out during orientations.  Here's what it says about LRW:

"Legal writing is the one skill that you will use throughout your entire career.  You must develop an effective legal writing style while you are in law school so that you can impress your employers.  Research is the key to effective outlining and writing.  Thorough research will help you avoid committing malpractice.  Incorporating your research into a well-written legal document will win cases.  Your research and writing classes are possibly the most important classes you will take in law school."

As most lawyers can attest, the ABA has hit the mark here.

So -- why doesn't the ABA require law schools to hire legal research and writing professors with the same terms of employment as other law professors?  Why does the ABA allow employment in the pink ghetto to remain the status quo for those who teach these crucial courses?


August 10, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Congratulations, Melody Daily!

Dailym Congratulations are in order for Professor Melody Daily at the University of Missouri - Columbia, who has been selected to receive the Missouri Bar Foundation's Spurgeon Smithson Award for this year.  She will receive the award officially this September at the Annual Meeting of the Missouri Bar.

According to the Missouri Bar's website:

"The Spurgeon Smithson Awards
were established in 1976 by bequest of the late Mr. Smithson, an outstanding Kansas City lawyer. The awards are made annually by the Missouri Bar Foundation to Missouri judges, teachers of law and/or lawyers deemed 'to have rendered outstanding service toward the increase and diffusion of justice among [all people].'"

hat tip:  Professor John Mollenkamp, Cornell Law School


August 10, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

job opening in Arizona for fall 2008

Professor Judy Stinson sends word of this announcement:

"The Arizona State University College of Law invites applications for the position of Associate Clinical Professor of Law for the 2008-2009 academic year.  Responsibilities include teaching in the legal research and writing program.   Applicants must have a J.D., evidence of a strong academic record, and experience that demonstrates a potential for excellence in teaching legal research and writing.  Law practice experience and experience teaching legal research and writing desirable.  Salary competitive. 

"Please submit resume with names, addresses, and telephone numbers of two references to:  Jan Spence, Coordinator for Appointments Committee, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law,  Arizona State University, 1100 S. McAllister Avenue, Tempe, AZ 85287-7906, or electronically to:  A background check will be performed prior to an offer of employment.  Application deadline is October 1, 2007; if not filled, the 1st of each month thereafter until search is closed. 

"ASU is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer.

"1. The position advertised:
_X_ a. is a tenure-track appointment.
__ b. may lead to successive long-term contracts of five or more years.
__ c. may lead only to successive short-term contracts of one to four years.
__ d. has an upper-limit on the number of years a teacher may be appointed.
__ e. is part of a fellowship program for one or two years.
__ f. is a part-time appointment, or a year-to-year adjunct appointment.

"2. The professor hired:
_X_ a. will be permitted to vote in faculty meetings. (on all matters except faculty hires and promotions)
__ b. will not be permitted to vote in faculty meetings.

"3. The school anticipates paying an annual academic year base salary in the range checked below. (A base salary does not include stipends for coaching moot court teams, teaching other courses, or
teaching in summer school; nor does a base salary include conference travel or other professional development funds.)
__ a. $90,000 or more
__ b. $80,000 to $89,999
__ c. $70,000 to $79,999
_X_ d. $60,000 to $69,999
_X_ e. $50,000 to $59,999
__ f. $40,000 to $49,999
__ g. $30,000 to $39,999
__ h. this is a part-time appointment paying less than $30,000
__ I. this is an adjunct appointment paying less than $10,000

4. The number of students enrolled in each semester of the courses taught by the legal research and writing professor will be:
__ a. 30 or fewer
__ b. 31 - 35
_X_ c. 36 - 40
__ d. 41 - 45
__ e. 46 - 50
__ f. 51 - 55
__ g. 56 - 60
__ h. more than 60


August 8, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Scribes luncheon at ABA annual meeting

If you will be at the ABA's annual meeting this week in San Francisco, don't forget the Scribes annual luncheon is Saturday at noon.  To be included in the head count, please contact Professor Joe Kimble at  If you are not a member of Scribes but will be at the ABA meeting and have an interest in legal writing, please consider joining.  Membership requires two published articles on legal topics or two published judicial decisions, a filled-out membership form, and payment of the membership fee.  Joe Kimble can answer membership questions, too.

August 7, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

a lo-o-o-o-ng brief

A court's comment about an excessively long brief:  " . . . [I]n recent years we have witnessed great technological advances in the methods of reproduction of the written word. Too often this progress is merely viewed as a license to substitute volume for logic in an apparent attempt to overwhelm the courts, as though quantity, and not quality, was the virtue to be extolled. As we noted many years ago, for obvious reasons this problem never arose when ‘every lawyer wrote his points with a pen’ [citation omitted].  Hopefully, the solution to this problem will not require that we return to that system, ignoring decades of technological advances."  See Slater v. Gallman, 38 N.Y.2d 1, 339 N.E.2d 863, 377 N.Y.S.2d 448 (1975)(assessing costs against the appellant for his 284-page long brief).

As the court had noted,  "His argument wanders aimlessly through myriad irrelevant matters of administrative and constitutional law, pausing only briefly to discuss the issues raised by this appeal."  An accompanying footnote catalogs "statement of questions presented, 16 pages; statement of the nature of the case and facts, 50 pages;  . . . reproduction of statutes, 40 pages; table of contents, 14 pages; table of authorities, 11 pages; legal argument on the merits, 126 pages; and a purported explanation as to length of his brief, 4 pages. . . ."  Id. at 4, 339 N.E.2d at 864, 377 N.Y.S.2d at 450.

This might be a useful case to use as an admonition when students excessively cut and paste on their first drafts or when they argue that thoroughness demands excessive length.


August 7, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 3, 2007

impermissible collaboration => 0 => lawsuit

The court's summary says it all:

"Appellant, Robert Jackson, was dismissed from Texas Southern University's Thurgood Marshall School of Law for failure to maintain at least a 2.0 grade point average. Jackson attributed his dismissal to a low grade received in a writing class, after the instructor gave him a zero for collaborating on a closed memo. Jackson sued Texas Southern University (TSU) and five other defendants, both individually and in their official capacities for defamation, fraud, breach of contract, and due process violations pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The trial court granted the defendants' motions for summary judgment, and Jackson now appeals only the due process claims as to three defendants. Because we find that Jackson received due process, we affirm."  Read more at  Jackson v. Texas Southern University-Thurgood Marshall School of Law, --- S.W.3d ----, 2007 WL 1672094 (Tex.App.-Houston [14 Dist.] 2007).

hat tip: Darby Dickerson, Stetson


August 3, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

habits of the domesticated American 1L

Iangallacher If you want to know about the study habits (and some not so studious habits, like computer gaming) of the incoming 1L class, take a look at Professor Ian Gallacher’s article, Who Are Those Guys? The Results of Survey Studying the Information Literacy of Incoming Law Students

Ian explains in his abstract:

"This article presents the results of a summer 2006 survey of students about to begin their first year of law school. In total, 740 students from seven different law schools responded to the survey. The survey gathered general information from the students, as well as self-evaluative data on student reading, writing, and research habits in an attempt to understand how the students perceive their skills in these crucial areas. The survey data suggest that while there is some positive news to report, incoming law students overestimate their writing and research skills and come to law school inadequately trained in information literacy. The article concludes with an analysis of some of the broad conclusions suggested by the data from this survey and from other studies of law student and new lawyers, and proposes some possible remedies for the skills deficits displayed by incoming law students."


August 3, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 2, 2007

remember, you're on stage

  1. Abramsd Professor Douglas Abrams at Missouri-Columbia has written a lively short article entitled The Writer’s Theater, which could help students develop a better sense of audience.  As Abrams explains, if all the world’s a stage, legal writers are on it.


August 2, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

mapping their thinking

Compphoto2004sm Professor Dave Thomson, at the University of Denver, has written an article for ye who are still reluctant to use high tech bells and whistles in your classroom:  CaseMap as a Tool for the Research Log Function: Finally, a Technology that Can Help us Teach Better.

As he puts it:
“For years, teachers at all levels have been encouraged to use technology in the classroom, with mixed results. Unfortunately, technology never makes for a better student or a better teacher by itself. What is needed are customized applications designed by teachers with particular educational objectives in mind. Those teachers charged with the difficult task of introducing their students to the art and practice of legal writing often find themselves in the position of a doctor trying to diagnose an illness from a dead body. That is, they find themselves trying to explain a combination of thinking and writing problems after the two have been mixed together, and the resulting mistakes have already been made. If we could more systematically join with our students in the critical thinking and linking steps that must precede good legal writing, we might be able to help them produce better final products. This article describes the use of a particular software program in the teaching of legal research and writing that, if carefully used and implemented, might finally meet that elusive objective.”

To download or print out the full text, click here.


August 1, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

in or out?

Michael F. Cosgrove, at the City of Cleveland’s law department, reports that Ohio appellate courts are wrestling with some burning interpretive issues. In Pupco Property Management v. City of Cincinnati, 170 Ohio App. 3d 641, 868 N.E.2d 738 (Hamilton County Ct. App. 2007), the concurring opinion is particularly insightful, round about paragraph 19:

"The question is this: Is someone drinking a beer on a deck covered by a roof (the awning) with only one side wall (the building) indoors or outdoors? The simplest resolution might be that, since there is no door at all, it would be impossible to be outdoors. But that would raise the question of whether installing a free-standing door would suffice. I fear not. Surely you have to go out a door somewhere to get to this deck -- so does that make it outdoors? Maybe the problem is that you don't go in a door, so you can't be indoors on the deck."


August 1, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)